Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Pat Metheny - 1987 "Still Life (Talking)"

Still Life (Talking) is an album by Pat Metheny Group, released in 1987 on Geffen Records. It was the group's first album to be released by the label. It features jazz fusion and crossover jazz, combining Brazilian jazz-influenced harmonies with jazz, folk and pop elements and, along with the previous First Circle and the following Letter from Home, is considered part of the so-called "Brazilian Trilogy".
The song "Last Train Home" was used in a Christmas commercial by the Florida-based supermarket chain Publix, featuring relatives traveling to Florida by train for Christmas. Metheny jokingly refers to the piece as "The Publix Song" when performing in Florida, as the commercial aired every holiday season from 1987 to 1996. The NPR radio show "Radio Deluxe with John Pizzarelli" uses the tune as its closing theme. In 2015, the song served as the end theme of the anime adaptation JoJo's Bizarre Adventure during the second half of the show's Stardust Crusaders arc, and subsequently became the focus of Essential Collection Last Train Home, a JoJo-themed compilation album for Pat Metheny Group. The composition has also been featured during The Weather Channel's "Local on the 8s" playlist since roughly the late 1980s. "(It's Just) Talk" has also been featured on the local forecasts on The Weather Channel since about the same time. The retail bedding manufacturer Sleep Train Inc which operates primarily in California uses the track for their television commercials.

While Brazilian music had captured Pat Metheny's attention since the '70s, he placed an especially strong emphasis on Brazilian elements in the late '80s. A master of uniting seemingly disparate elements as a cohesive whole, the imaginative guitarist effectively combines Brazilian-influenced harmonies and rhythm with jazz, folk, and pop elements on "So May It Secretly Begin," "Third Wind," "Minuano (Six Eight)," and other celebrated gems included on Still Life (Talking). The Brazilian leanings are put aside on one of Metheny's most unique offerings ever, "Last Train Home," which boasts a charming Western theme that brings to mind a peaceful journey across the Arizona desert. That may not sound like the description of a jazz piece, but then, making the unlikely a reality is among Metheny's many admirable qualities. 

Still Life (Talking) was the first Pat Metheny Group album for Geffen, following its 1984 swan song for ECM, First Circle, and it remains one of the group's finest efforts nearly twenty years down the road. The fact that five of the seven tracks have shown up regularly in Metheny Group live shows since that time—more than any other single Metheny Group album—suggests that the group also feels that way about the record, with the overt Brazilian overtones of "Minuano (six eight) and "Third Wind," as well as the anthemic "Last Train Home" being particularly popular choices and fan favourites.

By this point the core group had settled to include keyboardist Lyle Mays—who'd been with Metheny since the earliest days of the group—bassist Steve Rodby and drummer Paul Wertico—both recruits from the early 1980s. Still Life (Talking) saw the departure of singer/multi-instrumentalist Pedro Aznar from First Circle and the expansion of the group to a septet with the addition of singer/percussionist Armando Marçal and singers David Blamires and the recently-deceased Mark Ledford. Freed from the somewhat confining restrictions of ECM label owner Manfred Eicher's approach to recording, Metheny was not only able to take more time with the recording, but create a multi-layered approach to production that had more precedents in pop music than jazz.

Which isn't to imply that Metheny Group records don't fit within the jazz arena. But more than his side projects, Metheny Group records are always as much about composition as they are solo prowess, and in that regard Still Life (Talking) is a significant advancement over First Circle. Fans consider it to be the second part of the group's "Brazilian Trilogy" which began with First Circle and concluded with the follow-up Letter From Home. And in many ways it's the most successful of the three in terms of its overall strength of writing and playing. With Metheny and Mays the primary soloists, there are some seminal moments on Still Life (Talking) —notably Metheny's staggering solo on the burning "Third Wind" and Mays' ever-lyrical, ever-harmonically distinctive solo on the funkier Brazilian inflection of "(It's Just) Talk." The group also had the ability to weave contrapuntal wordless vocals with three singers in the band, creating a potential for greater orchestration both on record and, ultimately, in performance.

One of the overlooked aspects to Metheny's writing, as well as his longstanding collaborative work with Mays, is just how successful he's always been at creating music that sounds completely effortless, despite being considerably more detailed under the sheets. Sure, the bridge section that leads into the final restatement of the theme to "Minuano" is undeniably challenging; but more often than not the complexities are only there if you're paying attention. A double-edged sword that has sometimes rendered the jazz intelligentsia to accuse Metheny Group albums of being "jazz lite," these critics might be more respectful if they'd take the time to examine what actually goes on in these tunes. 

I own over 18k albums and c.d.'s. This recording has been a favorite of mine seen its release as an album. I already had a mild enjoyment of Pats music, but this was that placed him on a higher level of musical respect in my music appreciation!!

Track listing

All music composed by Pat Metheny, except where noted.

1.     "Minuano (Six Eight)" (Metheny, Lyle Mays)     9:28
2.     "So May It Secretly Begin"       6:25
3.     "Last Train Home"       5:41
4.     "(It's Just) Talk"       6:17
5.     "Third Wind" (Metheny, Mays)     8:37
6.     "Distance" (Mays)     2:45
7.     "In Her Family"       3:17


    Pat Metheny - guitar, synth guitar, acoustic guitars, electric guitars
    Lyle Mays - piano, keyboards
    Steve Rodby - acoustic bass, electric bass
    Paul Wertico - drums
    Armando Marçal - percussion, background vocals
    Mark Ledford, David Blamires - vocals


  1. http://www4.zippyshare.com/v/WJAKXho2/file.html

  2. I have the old vinyl álbum but I took your file to listen it in my car. Thanks.

  3. hi I was wondering if you perhaps own a copy of Chicago native musician Ghalib Ghallubs Morning Sunrise LP. I own it myself but was trying to see who else might have a better album than perhaps the one I own that would be worth doing a digital transfer. Thanks!

  4. Curious, for me this is the worse Pat Matheny album ever. And I´m born and raised in Brasil.

  5. It's not my favorite either :-)